I've been recently examining which version of GJohn refers to the
disciples of Jesus as "the disciples", and which has "his disciples". So
I've compared the three texts, RSV (representing Alexandrian text), KJV
(representing Byzantine text), and the two ancient Old Syriac Aramaic
texts of GJohn.
It sure seems like the use of the expression "his disciples" (tois
maqhtais autou), rather than of the more impersonal "the disciples" (where
autou is omitted), indicates, at least to some extent, a closer
relationship between Jesus and his disciples. And I found that both KJV
and the Old Syriac often feature "his disciples", rather than "the
disciples" -- against the Alexandrian text.
Of course, in all versions of GJohn, "his disciples" is by far the
preferred reading (RSV uses it 32 times). So it seems like this was the
original format in which Jesus' disciples were referred to. But now, let's
consider these 17 cases where RSV uses "the disciples".
In the following 7 Johannine passages, while RSV (Alexandrian text) has
THE DISCIPLES, KJV (Byzantine text) has HIS DISCIPLES. In each case except
one (John 11:12, which seems like a special case), the Old Syriac supports
(The following are the KJV/Byzantine versions of these passages.)
John 4:31 In the mean while HIS DISCIPLES prayed him, saying, Master,
John 11:7 Then after that saith he to HIS DISCIPLES, Let us go into
John 11:8 HIS DISCIPLES say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought
to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?
John 11:12 Then said HIS DISCIPLES, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do
well. (The Old Syriac has "they" here.)
John 11:54 Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but
went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called
Ephraim, and there continued with HIS DISCIPLES.
John 20:30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of HIS
DISCIPLES, which are not written in this book:
John 21:14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to HIS
DISCIPLES, after that he was risen from the dead.
COMMENT: It seems like in at least 6 of these 7 cases, the KJV (Byzantine
text), supported by the Old Syriac Aramaic GJohn have preserved the more
original text of John's Gospel. The older versions of these passages seem
to show a closer relationship between Jesus and his disciples.
Now, in the following 4 Johannine passages, both KJV and RSV have THE
DISCIPLES, while the Old Syriac has HIS DISCIPLES.
COMMENT: It's quite possible that the Old Syriac has preserved the more
original text in these 4 cases.
And in the following 4 Johannine passages, all three of our texts -- KJV,
RSV, and the Old Syriac -- have THE DISCIPLES.
COMMENT: All four of these cases are concentrated in one long passage in
Chapter 20. AFAIK, these are the only cases where the Old Syriac GJohn
uses the expression "the disciples" at all. These 4 exceptions to the rule
seem to show that the editors of the Old Syriac didn't just mechanically
use "his disciples" in every single case where the disciples of Jesus are
referred to. This analysis probably has some significant implication for
the redactional history of GJohn, since it may indicate that this passage
was added to GJohn at a later date (or perhaps redacted at a later date).
And, of course, the following is the special case that has already been
considered in a previous post,
Jn 6:11 (RSV omits the disciples from this passage completely; KJV has THE
DISCIPLES, and the Old Syriac Sinaitic has HIS DISCIPLES)
All these consistent patterns seem to indicate that where KJV (Byzantine
text) agrees with the Old Syriac Aramaic text of GJohn, these agreements
indicate the text that is older and more pure than the mainstream
Alexandrian/RSV version. This may well be the more original text of John's
Also, this analysis seems to indicate that we cannot simply assume that
the Old Syriac GJohn was a straightforward translation of either the
Alexandrian or of the Byzantine text of GJohn.
Yuri Kuchinsky -=O=- http://www.trends.ca/~yuku
"One of the greatest pains to human nature is the pain of a new idea"
--Walter Bagehot (1826-1877)